Ki Tisa

Torah Fax

Friday, March 12, 2004 - 19 Adar, 5764

Torah Reading: Ki Tisa (Exodus`30:11 - 34:35)  
Candle Lighting Time: 5:41 PM
Shabbat Ends: 6:42 PM
Shabbat Parah 

Majority Rules?

One of the classic questions that is raised by virtually every Biblical commentator, as well as by every thinking person, is how could the Jews-just forty days after they had been told directly by  G‑d not to make or worship any other gods- construct and worship the golden calf, as recounted in this week's parsha. Most commentators believe that:
a) Only a small minority of Jews were actually involved in this most blatant display of pagan worship. The others were only guilty of being passive onlookers who did nothing to stop the madness. Proof of this is adduced from the fact that only a fraction of the community was punished.
b) The small group of instigators were actually from the "Erev Rav," a mixture of peoples, "outsiders", whom Moses had accepted as members of the Jewish nation after they saw the miracles in Egypt. These individuals were steeped in idolatry and took advantage of Moses' absence to agitate for its revival. The fact that G‑d told Moses That it was "his" (meaning Moses') nation that had become corrupted is cited in support of this interpretation, because Moses was the one who accepted the Erev Rav into the fold without G‑d's blessing. 
c) What began as a non-idolatrous desire on the part of the Jews to create some symbolic representation of Moses (not G‑d) quickly degenerated into blatant idol worship. When Moses did not return from the mountain that he was on for forty days and nights, they thought he was gone forever. They, therefore, wished to have some physical representation of Moses. In their minds, G‑d did not need a human leader, He could communicate with them through a statue. Indeed, some believed that an inanimate medium was superior to a human intermediary since it cannot alter or distort the message. Their mistake was that only G‑d can decide who will be His "spokesman."

The lesson to be derived from these three points is that a few misguided individuals, even if they are essentially outsiders, can cause irreparable harm to the rest of the community, and that there is a "slippery slope" that can follow even a minor deviation from the trodden path set forth by G‑d. Once a few individuals, albeit outsiders and inexperienced, begin to veer off course, they can lead the multitudes down a slippery slope into the abyss.

Our Sages, however, have taught us that whatever power exists in the realm of evil, there is an equal, if not far greater, power in the realm of goodness. Since this is true, then it also follows logically that the three foregoing features of evil that were evident in the golden-calf saga are even more pronounced in the realm of goodness. Furthermore, recognition of these three traits is imperative for us to be able to overcome the daunting challenges that we are confronted with in our lives.

When we reflect on the amount of negativity there is in the world, we often respond with the refrain, "What can we do? Or, "We are only a minority pitted against a formidable foe?" Besides being a statistical minority, those who are on the right side of morality and goodness are often outside the power structure. And even if we can make some difference, we will counter the suggestion that we do something with the argument that "whatever we do will be so insignificant in comparison with the powerful forces and accomplishments of our adversaries."

The story of the golden calf, as understood by our Biblical commentators, can serve as a response to these three challenges. Even a few individual outsiders, who have their minds set on changing the course of the community or the world, can affect the outcome for everyone. And no matter how minor their contribution appears to be at the outset, it will eventually snowball into a massive force for change.

As has been stated on numerous occasions, the greatest Jewish teachers of the last century, based on classical Jewish teaching, have informed us that we are living in momentous times. To some it might seem that we are situated on the on the precipice of history, all it takes is for one madman or arch terrorist to ignite such a conflagration that it could lead to the end of the way of life as we know it. We know that while we must always be vigilant and not just rely on faith, we are actually living on the threshold of a new and positive era, referred to in our tradition as the Age of Redemption, or the Messianic Era. 

The fact that we see how evil individuals outside the power grid of society are able to call the shots for the rest of society is certainly cause for concern, but it is also a sign to us that we can make a difference; that one or several individuals can and will perform the final act of goodness and kindness that will spark a revolution for goodness that will defeat the forces of evil, once and for all.

The story of the golden-calf need not be depressing and negative, it can serve to inspire us to look inside and realize the enormous powers we were given to usher in the age of Moshiach.

Moshiach Matters

When King Moshiach will be revealed, we will require the special anointing oil to anoint the Kohein Gadol (High Priest) and (perhaps) Moshiach himself. The author of the book Kinas Sofrim quotes Rashbatz who says: “We have total faith in G‑d that this oil will be revealed upon the arrival of Moshiach.”

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